Monday, 6 October 2008

Statistics, and dammed statistics

Wendy Richardson, coordinator of People Against Demolishing the Yacht Club responds to CairnsBlog commentor 'Quickie', believed to be Kevin Byrne's former executive assistant Dennis Quick, about the debate over how many locals signed the State petition to save the historic Cairns Yacht Club building.

  • Perhaps instead of calculating the percentage that 11,000 signatures is of the total population of the Cairns Region (and by the way the majority of those signatures were collected in the Barron River, Cairns and Mulgrave electorates, which only number about 77,000 eligible adults) you might instead consider what percentage of the people who walked by the petition were pleased to find it and wanted to sign. Of course you weren't there, so you'll have to take our word for it, but we know it was a clear majority. A small number of people politely declined to sign or ignored it, and a very small number were vehemently opposed.

    I can also assure you that I have been contacted by pensioners and others who were distraught that they could not get to where petitions were, nor did they have a computer to access the internet. One 80 year old collected over 170 signatures herself. A ‘radical, minority group Gran’ in your mind I guess, but actually, no.

    I have also been contacted by quite a number of business people, including a major Cairns Developer who can’t understand why the building is not being incorporated into the Masterplan and a Real Estate Agent who admits he sells old Queenslanders to developers who then replace them with highrise, but who also says there ‘is a line in the sand, and demolishing the Yacht Club crosses that line significantly’.

    Many others are aghast at what is happening including three eminent architects, an engineer, a self-employed accountant, a medical specialist and a GP who have all either written or rung me. Not your average ‘minority group’ members I suggest.

    Now, about the heritage value ….. One of the most misleading statements put out by Desley Boyle, which it seems you have succumbed to, is the one about the building failing two heritage listings. Desley would like to have us all think that this meant it was of no heritage value, so let’s examine that.

    The first heritage application put forward by the National Trust, failed because of lack of information. That is now acknowledged by all involved.

    However, in 2003, the Cairns Historical Society and Dr Jan Wegner, lecturer in Local History and Heritage at JCU, assisted the National Trust to prepare the second application.... WHICH WAS ASSESSED BY THE TWELVE MEMBERS ON THE QLD HERITAGE COUNCIL AND FOUND TO MEET RELEVANT STATE CRITERIA. THE BUILDING WAS THEN OFFICIALLY LISTED BY THE QLD HERITAGE COUNCIL. THAT IS, THEY COMPLETELY ACKNOWLEDGED THAT IT WAS OF STATE SIGNIFICANCE IN THEIR LEARNED OPINIONS.

    If nobody had objected, the building would now have been automatically permanently listed and therefore protected.

    One month after their initial decision to list the building the State Heritage Council Chairman, Professor John Brannock told the Cairns Post “The demolition of the Cairns Yacht Club would be a terrible loss to the city and would reduce the social and cultural value of its waterfront irreparably.”
    In fact, Professor Brannock said there would have to be "quite serious factors" put up by the Cairns Port Authority - the only objector to heritage listing of the 85-year-old landmark (at that stage) - to make the council change its mind.

    What followed then were four other objections that were all based on the same two things raised by the Port Authority. The first was an assessment by a heritage Assessor Gordon Grimwade, who was employed by the Port Authority.

    Grimwade assured readers that the Yacht Club was of great heritage significance locally, quoting an earlier heritage assessment in 1994 which also said that. However, Grimwade felt the Yacht Club did not have state significance, though he gave no reason for that. (Bear in mind here, that a very ordinary house in Mooloolaba was recently State listed merely because it was used as a hostel since the 1930’s! Grimwade now serves on the Heritage Council which made that and many similar decisions. Clearly, the Cairns Yacht Club which has extensive early settlement and wartime history far surpasses that.)

    The Queensland Heritage Council then employed an expert independent assessor, Michael Kennedy, who visited Cairns for 4 days to assess the building and its heritage values. Kennedy not only found that the building DID FIT STATE HERITAGE CRITERIA but openly disagreed with Grimwade’s opinion that it didn’t.

    The second reason used for objecting to the Heritage listing was pointed out by Kennedy, no doubt because of its ‘circular’ nature.

    The Cairns Port Authority had claimed there ‘was no prospect of conserving the building on the site’. This was due to their determination to not allow the Cairns Yacht Club Inc, who had occupied the building since 1917, to stay. They also did not intend to seek heritage funding to restore the building, even if the Yacht Club moved out and it was turned into a heritage tourism site, despite that fact that abundant State Government money was available elsewhere for similar projects (e.g. The Chinese Temple in Atherton which attracted $1.3 million a few years earlier).
    The Heritage Council accepted that the Port Authority would not allow the building to stay (although many people wonder what other pressures were applied to them) and so did not heritage list it. However, the Port Authority would have had to preserve it if it had been listed.

    Get that Quickie? It can’t be heritage listed because it can’t stay on the site, but it could stay on the site if it was heritage listed! But it can’t be heritage listed because it can’t stay on the site.

    So there you have it – some of the questionable situation around the debacle of the failed heritage listings. A lot more can and may be said about this process – but let’s be clear about one thing – the twelve members of the Heritage Council agreed it should be listed and so did their independent assessor. The assessor who did not agree with state listing did say it was of considerable local heritage value at least. Guess you are more of an expert than them though, huh?

    And finally Quickie, you obviously think that the collective voices of; The National Trust, the Register of the National Estate, a majority of Cairns Regional Councillors, the entire State Opposition, three heritage assessors, the 92 year old former Commander of the Catalina Squadrons, Sir Richard Kingsland, eight Torres Strait Islander families who specially contacted us to see what they could do, leaders of local indigenous groups, Senators Ian McDonald, Barnaby Joyce, Scott Ludlum and Bob Brown, the Hon Sharman Stone, Shadow Federal Heritage Minister and the Hon Peter Garrett, the Federal Heritage Minister, who suggested we pursue State Heritage listing again, along with 11,000 citizens and others who’ve voted in polls and signed previous petitions, and who can all see merit in the building staying where it is, are just a bunch of twits to be discounted! Or a ‘voracious Minority group’, at least by your estimation.

    I rest my case …..

    Wendy

2 comments:

dennis said...

From Dennis Quick

Michael, Wendy, et al;
Please be advised that I AM NOT the "Quickie" that has so upset many. I have only once previously contributed to Michael's site and I did it upfront. And I let him know such. I have not commented on the Yacht Club or any other issue of controversy on this site.
Please accept this as a genuine comment and desist from conjecturing about various nom de plumes being me in disguise. I do not disguise myself and never will.

Quack said...

Michael,

Please also be advised that I am also not the Quickie who thinks the Yacht Club is just a beaten up old tin dunny while he spends his days polishing KB's backside and removing graffiti from the cenotaph while masturbating with John Mackenzies rug.